Natural Remedies for Modern Diseases: Introduction

By Delois Weeks, RN PHD

 Photo by HandmadePictures/iStock / Getty Images

Objectives: The objectives for sharing this information are to enable one to:

  • Consider the reasons why herbal/ alternative medicines are used
  • Describe risks associated with the use of herbal/ alternative medicines
  • Discuss commonly used dietary supplements, including herbal medicines
  • Identify sources of information regarding herbal/alternative medicines

Effects of Herbal and Prescription Medications:

  • Therapeutic Effects: Why medication is being taken
  • Side Effects: A problem that occurs when the medication goes beyond the effect, or in addition to the desired therapeutic effect.
  • Adverse Effects: An injury caused by taking the medication
  • Interaction Effects: Drug to Drug, Drug to Food, Drug to fluids such as juices, drug to herbals and over the counter (OTC) meds

Results of Consumer Survey (Pharmacother 2000; 20(1):83-7):

  • Results from the survey (794/1300 surveys returned) showed a significant increase in use of herbals products, and willingness to inform health care practitioners:
  • 42% (n=330): Herbal product use
  • Common herbal products (aloe, garlic, ginseng, echinacea, and St. John’s wort)
  • Women (majority)
  • Higher education (75%)
  • Herbal users = more prescription medications
  • Herbal users = negative perception of prescription medications

Top-Selling Herbs in Mainstream Markets in 2001:

Gingko              ($46)
Echinacea         ($40)
Garlic                ($39)
Ginseng        ($31)
Soy                 ($28)
Saw Palmetto    ($25)
St. John’s wort ($24)
Valerian             ($12)
Cranberry       ($11)
Black cohosh      ($10)
Kava kava            ($ 9)
Milk thistle           ($ 7)
Evening primrose($ 6)
Grape seed            ($ 4)
Bilberry                  ($ 4)
Yohimbe                ($ 2)

Some of the Most Commonly Used Herbals:

Kava kavapyrones)--(Piper methysticum) is often used to help reduce anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders. It may be effective for short-term treatment of anxiety (similar to Valium® and Ativan®). Side effects may include liver toxicity leading to liver failure and liver transplantation. Use no longer than 4 weeks. DO not use with alcohol or sedative medications. Use caution when driving or operating heavy machinery.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree): Distinct chemical components work synergistically to improve blood flow (brain and heart). It protects against oxidative damage from free radicals (antioxidant). Ginkgo also inhibits effects of platelet activating factor (PAF).
Research has demonstrated ginkgo leaf extract to be useful for stabilizing or improving some aspects of cognitive function and social functioning in patients with multiple types of dementia. Modest improvement in visual memory and speed of cognitive processing in non-demented patients with age-related memory impairment has been observed.

Adverse effects of Ginkgo include: hypersensitivity reactions, gastrointestinal disturbances, and spontaneous bleeding (few cases reported).

Ginkgo may have interactions with anticoagulants/blood thinners such as (Coumadin®), aspirin, Plavix®, and Ticlid®, and Insulin.

Ginkgo seems to be well-tolerated (weeks to 1 year).